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senator rand paul of kentucky captured the coveted straw poll at the conservative political action conference today. >> the last three republican nominees at some point have finished either first or second in the cpac straw poll, so it does give you a sense of where the party is and where it might be going. >> the gop of old has grown stale and moss-covered. >> reporter: as the party works to find a path forward it was a candidate from the past who stepped back into the spotlight. >> mr. president, we admit it. you won. accept it. now step away from the teleprompter and do your job. >> reporter: sarah palin serving up red meat to the party faithful. even taking a swipe at new york mayor michael bloomberg's decision to regulate soda. >> bloomberg's not around, our big gulp's safe. >> reporter: a rousing response. >> she's on fire.
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>> reporter: but the former vice presidential nominee has been out of political office since 2009. bringing into question palin's sway with the party and the conservative movement. among those trying to fill the leadership void, tea party favorite senator ted cruz who headlined the event this evening. >> do we surrender? or do we stand up now? >> reporter: it was a three-day conference marked by the discordant voices of potential 2016 contenders. >> the face of the republican party needs to be the face of every american, and we need to be the party of inclusion and acceptance. >> we don't need a new idea. there is an idea. the idea is called america. and it still works. >> the new gop will need to embrace liberty in both the economic and the personal sphere. >> reporter: party insiders warn republicans need to find a clear direction and learn the lessons of last year's stinging presidential defeat. >> it's up to us to make sure that we learn from our mistakes
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and my mistakes. >> there was very little republican outreach, particularly to working-class voters. and to the hispanic community, which doomed the party at a national level. >> reporter: now, the party will also have to wrestle with social issues like same-sex marriage. on friday, senator rob portman reversed course and said he supports same-sex marriage after learning that his son is guy. according to the latest nbc news/"wall street journal" poll a majority of republicans are opposed to same-sex marriage, most democrats support it. lester? >> kristen welker tonight, thanks. for more on all this, let's bring in chief washington correspondent john harwood. all this talk of the party recasting itself, that means reaching out to a lot of different groups, different interests. is it practical? >> it's pretty complicated. it's not easy at all. republicans need to do better with young voters who are socially liberal but older voters and the religious right
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are the heart of their base. they need to appeal to working-class voters, especially hispanics, but also do better with upscale voters, college-educated women in particular. one telling piece of advice came from jeb bush at this cpac conference. he said republicans can't be against everything, they can't be against the changes coursing through american society and the world that voters can see with their own eyes. >> and this conversation primarily talking about the campaign going forward to 2016. what about the here and now? does this mean a change in the way the party deals with the president, for example? >> that's an interesting challenge as well. as they fight president obama on specific issues, they have an overarching problem to deal with, they're identified as the party of congress. they need to show congress can function. the most obvious sweet spot for them appears to be the issue of immigration which marco rubio tellingly did not talk about at cpac. >> john harwood, good to have you on, thanks. on a highway in pennsylvania today, a charter bus carrying a women's college sports team veered off the road and crashed into a tree, killing two people
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on board and leaving a community in deep shock. nbc's michelle franzen has more on that tonight. >> reporter: the first images of a mangled charter bus after it crashed saturday morning along the pennsylvania turnpike, 20 miles outside harrisburg. on-scene, rescue crews scrambled to help victims on board. 23 women lacrosse players and three coaches from seton hill, a private catholic university in pennsylvania. the team was on its way to play an ncaa division ii match at millersville university when police say the bus veered off the road, plowed through a guardrail, and slammed into a tree. the bus driver died at the scene. and seton hill officials released a statement mourning the loss of the team's head coach, 30-year-old christina quigley, who died shortly after at a hospital. they confirmed she was pregnant and her unborn baby boy died as a result of the crash as well. police say three passengers were seriously injured. 19 others were treated for minor
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injuries at nearby hospitals. the charter bus is owned and operated by mlaker transportation. in a statement, the company says it's cooperating with police and the university and offered its sorrow and sympathy to those impacted by this accident. this is the latest in a series of bus crashes around the country involving various tour bus companies. in the past three months alone, major incidents in los angeles, miami, and oregon. last summer, congress mandated tougher safety requirements including adding seat belts, set to be phased in during the next five years. >> these requirements are essential. and they should have been on buses long ago. they have been on cars for years. >> reporter: police say they'll look at road conditions in today's crash and talk with witnesses to determine the exact cause. meanwhile, seton hill will hold a memorial mass for quigley tomorrow night. she is survived by her husband and young son. michelle franzen, nbc news, new york.
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in florida, it was a hot air balloon that crashed today. it happened in miami when the basket of the balloon got caught in some power lines. among those on board were donte stallworth, an nfl wide receiver and free agent, who most recently played with the new england patriots. stallworth and his girlfriend were injured. a third passenger was not hurt. in a courtroom in steubenville, ohio, a 17-year-old girl who says she was raped by two high school football players took the witness stand today at their trial. the alleged attack took place last august and has left the town on edge ever since. nbc's ron allen was in the courtroom today. he joins us now from steubenville tonight with the latest, ron? >> reporter: good evening, lester. the young girl was very composed as she told what happened. she said she went to a house party that night with friends, admitted drinking heavily. she burst into tears, however, when she was shown pictures from the alleged night showing her naked and apparently very intoxicated. she says she woke up the following morning, frightened, afraid, embarrassed, because she
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had no idea where she was or what had happened. prosecutors insist 17-year-old trent mays, who the young girl spent much of that night with, raped her in the back seat of a car on the night in question. and then later attacked her again, along with 16-year-old defendant malik richmond, while the girl was laying on a basement floor. in court, the accuser testified she woke up after a night of party-hopping with no idea where she was. "i didn't know what to think," she testified, adding, "i didn't remember anything and it just freaked me out." prosecutors claim the defendants, seen in this picture holding the girl, humiliated and degraded her and treated her "like a toy." >> i think it was fit for the prosecutors at this point, i think they've established what they need to establish, that this girl really was so intoxicated she was unable to consent to these actions when they occurred. >> reporter: the defense insists prosecutors cannot prove the two teenagers committed a crime.
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>> we don't believe that they could even support there was in fact any sexual conduct, let alone that that conduct was nonconsensual. >> reporter: in text messages from the following day, as she pieced together what happened with friends, the accuser said to defendant mays, why the expletive would you let that happen, seriously, you have no expletive respect. the case has been so emotional here because it involves players from the town's beloved high school football team. as disturbing images from the night in question, like this video of young people mocking the girl, circulated on social media, protesters demanded more arrests. the state attorney general has said the investigation continues. meanwhile, just about everyone in this small, close-knit town has an opinion. >> some of them are saying what the little boys are going through is wrong, because they don't believe that anyone would do anything like that. >> i think that it's wonderful that it's headline news, i really do. i think jane doe deserves justice.
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>> reporter: late this evening the case moved quickly. both sides rested and gave closing arguments. the defense maintains there's reasonable doubts about what happened. the prosecutors says it was simple, a 16-year-old girl was taken example of and humiliated. the judge said he will give his verdict sunday morning. lester? >> ron allen, thanks. they're battling one of the first wildfires of the season in colorado tonight. the fire has burned about 1,000 acres west of ft. collins and strong winds that spread the fire yesterday had died down by today. many residents were able to return home only to be told winds are supposed to pick up again tomorrow. in central mexico, at least 14 people were killed at a massive fireworks explosion. it happened during a religious celebration when a firework malfunctioned and landed on a truck that was filled with unused fireworks, igniting all of them. more than 150 people were
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injured, many of them with severe burns. helicopters, ambulances and soldiers from a nearby military base helped bring the victims to hospitals. at the vatican today it was time for pope francis to meet the press. and he gave us more insight on his view of the church and what it was like for him at the conclave as he was about to be elected. nbc's anne thompson is at the vatican for us again tonight, anne, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, lester. pope francis told the media the church is a spiritual power, not a political one, and despite all the attention that we've paid to his election, it is christ he said who is at the center of the church, not the pope. but it is how he said what he said and what he said that is making big news. speaking without a text, pope francis lifted the veil of secrecy on the conclave, telling reporters when his election became inevitable, or in his words, dangerous, he was comforted by an old friend who said, don't forget the poor.
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the pope said he thought of st. francis of assisi, a man of poverty and peace, and took his name. he said he wants a poor church and a church for the poor. father bob barron says this is a shift in emphasis. >> will we get rid of st. peter's a basilica? no, but i think we might put a stress on the outreach to the poor, our own humility in presenting ourselves. >> reporter: these three seminarians are studying at the pontifical north american college. chris kirsch, who worked in government. former musician jared twenty. and deacon jeff walker. he joined the cemetery in college and will be ordained in june. why did you want to become a priest in an era when the priesthood has been under siege? >> god works through all sorts of different circumstances. that he's maybe using my vocation and our vocation to bring healing to a world that desperately needs it. >> my hope in all of those interactions that i have with
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people is to improve their view and their -- for it to be humanized for them. >> reporter: can you make the priesthood better? >> i think you see in the three of us, you see guys that really want to bring a sense of joy into the world. and i think by a smiling face, by not being afraid to get to know people, and we can bring a sense of christ to them. >> reporter: the change they hope for evident today in how francis greeted selected reporters. even blessing the seeing-eye dog of an italian radio correspondent. now today, pope francis made one administrative move, reappointing albeit temporarily the heads of the vatican bureaucracy, suggesting there are personnel changes ahead for this much-maligned part of the church. lester? >> anne thompson, thank you. when "nbc nightly news" continues, texting your doctor. a modern twist on the old house call. later, extreme exercise. the kind of workout that may be a bit too extreme for some.
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we're back now with new twist on what used to be a mainstay of family medicine, the house call. while the practice of doctors actually treating you at home is virtually a thing of the past, more and more doctors are checking in with their patients now by texting them. we get our report tonight from chief medical editor dr. nancy snyderman. >> the first time i got sick -- >> reporter: when 17-year-old cammy valentine isn't visiting her doctor like this -- >> you're eating well? eating breakfast every day? >> reporter: she's getting
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virtual checkups. >> you're still not feeling well? ears? >> yeah, i'm still yucky. >> give me a call after 3:00. >> reporter: doctor/patient texting has become the new-age house call. >> it makes me feel like she does care about what i'm feeling. >> reporter: dr. natasha berger of pediatric associates of kansas city integrated electronic messaging into her practice a year ago. she wanted to find a way for cammy to ask her questions even when she wasn't in the office, then follow up with her about appointments and medications. texting just made sense. >> it facilitates faster care, better care, more efficient care on my end and the patient's end. >> reporter: at montana sinai adolescent health center in new york, doctor/patient texting has become so popular, dr. katie malbon has created a formal program to keep up with it. >> your parameters are to give information, accurate, short, keep the door open so these kids keep coming back? >> yes, absolutely.
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>> reporter: text in the city allows teens to send in anonymous questions doctors respond to within 24 hours. the center receives up to 50 inquiries a day, ranging from reproductive health to diet and disease. >> this technological trend is expected to change medicine as we know it. it has the potential to improve the doctor-patient relationship in particular by providing greater accessibility, a freer flow of information, and more immediate responses. >> there's a thirst for knowledge. i feel once they start sending in the text message and they get an answer, they keep going and they'll send more and more in. >> reporter: to ease parents' worries, dr. bergert says she consults with them before beginning a texting relationship with any teen patients and she never releases sensitive information via text. >> there's always going to be a place for a doctor's physical touch, there's always going to be a place for a doctor visit. but i think these new tools will facilitate easier access to get
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there. >> it's good to know that my doctor's always there, that i can text her and she'll be right there to help me. >> reporter: guiding adolescents when they need it most with just the click of a button. dr. nancy snyderman, nbc news, new york. up next here tonight, what may have been the ride of their lives. if you're into that sort of thing.
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♪ st. patrick's day is not officially until tomorrow but they held the famous parade here in new york today, as they did many places around the country. it was the 251st time the new york parade has been held. though it's less than a week before spring, light snow fell on the city for most of the day. but no accumulation.
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in florida, the tampa bay rays showed a different kind of team spirit last night. before their preseason game against the philadelphia phillies, 65 members of the rays organization had their heads shaved to raise money for pediatric cancer foundation. they included the team's manager and owner. their goal is to raise $20,000 this year, by the way, tampa bay won last night's game. at a theme park in branson, missouri, the debut of a new roller coaster, outlaw run. promoters claim it has the steepest drop of any wooden roller coaster. it also has a double-barrel roll, meaning you get to go upside-down twice. if once isn't enough. and it's said to be the second-fastest in the world. when we come back, stepping it up. when a tough workout just isn't good enough. meet the next level.
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as countless americans hit the gym or go for a casual run this weekend, for some the obsession with fitness has moved to a whole new level. they've become weekend warriors, challenging themselves in what can best be called a survival of the fittest. we sent nbc's kristin dalgren to find out what it's all about. >> let's go, let's go! >> reporter: it used to be a marathon was the ultimate way to push your body to the limit. this is not your father's fitness. >> everybody together!
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>> it's getting back to the roots of playing in the mud. being a kid again. >> are you ready? >> reporter: just outside phoenix, arizona, thousands lined up then dragged, climbed, crawled, and fought their way to the finish of what's called a spartan race. one of the latest crazes in extreme fitness. >> come on, come on, up the hill. >> we've talked to people who have done marathons, triathlons, they've done it all, they couldn't do one of these. they say, one of the toughest things i've done in my life. >> reporter: kobe call has done more than 30 races. he quit his job to become a professional racer. the challenges can be intimidating. they challenge you on things you don't normally do. but it's not just about the physical. you need to be mentally tough to do this. so, why do something so hard, something where you sign a waiver that literally says there is a real possibility you may die?
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why, says divorced mother of three ann reynolds, is this moment of accomplishment. >> zblood good job! >> a lot of camaraderie, a lot of adventure, something always new around the corner. >> reporter: spartan race is just one of the options for americans who seem to be obsessed with pushing the athletic envelope. in a tough mudder, racers run through live wires. and plunge into icy pools. s.e.a.l. fit mimics elite navy s.e.a.l. training. zombie races, yes, i said zombie races, add in a fear factor. by the explosive growth of all of these, it's become crystal clear. for many, when it comes to working out, ordinary -- >> cold but it feels great! >> reporter: just doesn't cut it anymore. kristin dalgren, nbc news, phoenix. >> see you on the treadmill. that's "nbc nightly news" for this saturday. i'm lester holt reporting from new york. see you tomorrow morning on "today" and right back here
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tomorrow evening. good night. -- captions by vitac -- good evening. i'm diane dwyer. >> i'm teri mcsweeney. raising money to help prevent drunk-driving and talking for the first time of what brought the reality of drunk-driving to his doorstep. we are live in san carlos with details. >> he lost two of his family
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members recently. that's what got him involved with m.a.d.d. his aunt and uncle went to the super bowl in new orleans and hours later, they were killed by a drunk driver. he was the last person to see them. he struggles with the pain from the unexpected loss. today, he signed autographs. dinner tonight will also be held to raise money for mothers against drunk-driving. walker who played for the niners signed a four-year deal with the tennessee titans. the move is bittersweet for him. he's grateful for the opportunity to say good-bye to his faithful fans. his commitment to mothers against drunk-driving is something he will continue in tennessee. >> my goal is basically to open someone's eyes. anyone that is thinking of
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drinking and driving, think about it. it can save your life or somebody else's life. >> reporter: california highway patrol is here supporting that and warning drivers to be safe on the roads, especially in light of st. patrick's day celebrations falling tomorrow on sunday. live in san carlos, kimberly, bay area news. >> thank you. one year ago, sierra lamar vanished. police made an arrest but they still do not have her body. her parents held two events today. marla is live with more. >> reporter: the festivities came to an end. the support for sierra is still going strong. her family held a fund-raiser here in fremont tonight. her mother

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